Dealing With Dry Eyes

The largest displays in any pharmacy, are the eye drops.

Since the "Wind God's" have been loosing their minds this week in southern California, it's time to look at dry eyes and eye drops. Over the counter, or OTC means you can buy these eye drops without a doctor's prescription. Determining which kind of eye drop is best usually depends on what kind of eye condition you have, such as dryness, itching, swelling, redness, soreness, eye goop, allergies or infection. We all should know by now what a dose of Visine can do to ones digestive system. Some eye drops contain only sterile saline solution, which is not harmful if ingested. However, other eye drops can be hazardous if they are consumed.

Ingesting eye drops that contain tetrahydrozoline can potentially be fatal, particularly to small children. "The active ingredient in Visine eye drops is Tetrahydrozoline HCl 0.05%. Swallowing this substance can result in a number of nasty effects, like lowering body temperature, making breathing difficult, or even halting it entirely, blurring vision, nausea, elevating and then dropping blood pressure, causing seizures or tremors. Pfizer's cautions to users of Visine say, "If swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away." so think about that before you dose someone again.  In most cases, (other than revenge) eye drops are used to lubricate dry eyes and help maintain moisture on the outer surface of your eyes. According to ophthalmologist Dennis Robertson M.D. at the Mayo Clinic, artificial tears may be used to treat dry eyes that result from aging, certain medications, a medical condition, eye surgery or environmental factors, such as smoky or windy conditions. Artificial tears are available without a prescription. There isn't a single brand of artificial tears that works best for every form of dry eyes. In addition to providing lubricating moisture, some artificial tears contain electrolytes, such as potassium and bicarbonate. These additives may promote healing of the surface of the eyes. Artificial tears may also contain thickening agents, which keep the solution on the surface of your eyes longer.

 There are two basic types of artificial tears:
  • Eyedrops with preservatives. These artificial tears often come in multidose bottles and contain chemicals that discourage bacterial growth once the container is opened. The preservatives may irritate your eyes, especially if you have moderate or severe dry eyes.
  • Preservative-free eyedrops. These artificial tears contain fewer additives and are generally recommended if you apply artificial tears more than four times a day. Preservative-free products may come in single-dose vials.

Many ordinary OTC eye drops can provide relief for short-term dry eyes, when the cause is related to temporary circumstances. In fact, temporary dry eye probably is one of the best reasons to use OTC lubricating eye drops for relief. Probably everyone has dry eyes at one time or another. Your eyes can feel dry if you're very tired, if you've worked at the computer all day or if you've been reading for a long time. Other reasons for dry eye include being outdoors in windy and sunny conditions. You can have dry eyes even if you spend too much time in an airplane, where the air is extraordinarily dry, or if you fail to drink enough water, which leads to dehydration. Many OTC lubricating eye drops can give you some relief from short-term dryness. Most work by adding various tear elements that are in your eyes already, making them function better.

It's best to avoid a decongestant eye drop for dry eye, though. You'll recognize a decongestant eye drop because it's typically advertised as relief for red eyes. Decongestant eye drops work by shrinking the outer blood vessels in the white parts of your eyes (sclera), making them look less red. But decongestant eye drops also cause dryness. Long-term dryness can happen with conditions associated with aging, especially with women (due to hormonal changes). Certain medications also can cause long-term dryness, such as decongestants, diuretics and antidepressants. So again, the type of eye drop you choose to relieve dryness is related to the underlying reason for your eye discomfort. If OTC drops don't do the job, you may need to see an eye doctor for dry eye testing and additional treatment. Most eye drops contain preservatives that inhibit bacterial growth and keep them safer, but some people are sensitive or even allergic to these preservatives. So keep in mind that these eye drops containing preservatives actually can cause irritation, redness and more dryness, rather than easing these symptoms. It's actually easy to use eye drops, but many people don't know how. Just follow these basic steps:

  • Tilt back your head, so the drops will stay in your eye.
  • Gently tug or pull out the lower eyelid near your nose to form a well.
  • Keep your eye open.
  • Hold the bottle far enough away from your eye that it doesn't touch, and then squeeze.
  • Shut your eye for a moment, then blink several times to distribute the eye drop.
  • Follow these same steps for eye ointments, and don't let the tip of the tube touch any part of your eye.

Many eye doctors suggest using non-preserved (preservative-free) eye drops to avoid reactions. Most non-preserved eye drops come in unit dose tubes. Meaning that, once they're opened, they should be used up or thrown away after one day. This is because preservative-free eye drops can grow bacteria, if they are kept too long and exposed to the elements. Of course, prices can vary depending on whether a product is preservative-free and how it is packaged. Ounce for ounce, you pay more than $4 extra for .55 oz. of preservative-free eye drops, compared with a bottle of the same amount of eye drops containing a preservative, but this makes sense, because each individual portion of the preservative-free eye drop has its own packaging, necessary for the benefit of containing no preservatives. If artificial tears don't help in relieving your dry eyes, make an appointment with an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist). He or she may be able to offer another treatment for your dry eyes. Don't wait, if you're going to gamble, don't do it with your eyes. Good Luck...

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1 comment:

  1. I had no idea there was a right way to use eye drops! I'm so glad that I know this now. My eyes are always so dry, and I want to try artificial tears. It's good to know how to use them properly!